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Plus-Size Heroines and Husky Heroes

Monday, June 6, 2011

I’ve written before about how I’ve been taken to task by a few reviewers (both publicly and privately) for featuring “plus-size” heroines (full-figured, fat, overweight, whatever term the person chooses to use). The majority of feedback I’ve seen for making this choice is positive—after all ninety-nine percent of romance-novel heroines are shaped like Barbie-dolls: big boobs, tiny waist, curvy hips. And of course, the heroes are all built like Superman—tall, broad shouldered, muscular, narrow waist, strong legs.

But what if a romance-novel couple looked like these people:


Would you buy a romance novel with one of those images on the front?

Last year, CBS debuted a show that takes this question head on—are people interested in a romance story involving two overweight people?—with a show that’s the only sitcom I’ve watched in years, Mike & Molly. By some, it was well received (especially after the first month or so when they stopped making such a big deal about weight, dieting, Overeaters Anonymous, and making fat jokes). However, it also received scathing criticism, like this article that appeared in Marie Claire magazine: “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV)?โ€

After writing a blog post defending plus-size heroines (Beauty…In the Eye of the Beholder), I was taken to task last night by my uncle about the photos of the male templates I’ve been collecting over on my Facebook page—that not a single one of them is 6’1″ and 275 pounds—or, in other words, the male equivalent of a plus-size heroine.

And it struck me . . . although I have used a “husky” hero—Major, in Menu for Romance (after all, who trusts a skinny chef?)—there is a disproportionate number of slender, muscular men in my books compared to the women. Part of that, I think, is that it’s every overweight woman’s dream that the man who falls in love with us and finds us beautiful have six-pack abs instead of a six-kegger beer gut. And I felt so guilty—because one of the things that annoys me the most about online dating (which is why I gave that up years ago) is because even all of the more-than-husky (i.e., downright fat) guys online still want the Barbie-doll figure on a woman. And here I am doing the same thing, writing my romance fantasies only about men who fit that physical ideal.

Is there room on the bookshelves for romance novels featuring plus-size heroines and husky heroes? And even if the characters featured inside are larger-than-average, will readers buy books with pictures of overweight people on the front cover?

59 Comments
  1. Daphne Webb permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 12:22 am

    I believe YES. There is room for those books. And YES. Readers will buy them, because 1) there are a lot of us that can relate and 2) most of us know that a trimmed/buff/wash board male would probably never look twice at us, but the man who actually loves us is more than likely that kind who is husky/broad/pudgy/jolly etc. A real man. :o)

    So, you at least know that there is at least one reader who would buy those books. And I know of three others who will. And if those three others know three more, then you get the picture.

    And to bust conformity I will say: Blaze the way! Pave that trail! :o)

    Like

  2. Monday, June 6, 2011 12:41 am

    As the Uncle that “took (you) to task” I’ll be one of first to comment. One of reasons we read books (go to movies, listen to music, go to ball games, etc.) is to ESCAPE from our everyday life. There’s nothing wrong with a plus sized woman identifying with a “barbie shaped” heroine, or a balding overweight guy to imagine himself in the place of a Robert Redford look alike. I don’t go watch movies for a “real life” experience, I want there to be a feel good ending where I leave with that feeling of “there’s hope for a happy ending every day”. Ok, maybe we know that tomorrow’s ending may be more “real life”, but today, we enjoy a happy ending. So, write the story. Make it exciting, romantic, sexy, sad, happy and hopeful. Whether the models are Plus or Minus is ancillary to our enjoyment. Plus sized people won’t believe you if you have the wrong kind of people hitting on them in your story. But, when the love in your story flows through and around them and they share real emotions as they root for (or against) your hero and heroine, they have romance in their life. And, THAT is what you bring them – short, tall, fat, skinny and even pretty people that don’t see themselves nearly as beautiful as we think they must – romance, hope and a happy ending.

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:02 pm

      But as I told someone the other day—fiction should be based in truth. And, as many others have said here today, there are more imperfect people in the world than perfect. So I’ll keep thinking about this and see what works for future characters. Thanks for making me stop and think about it!

      Like

  3. Melissa permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 1:03 am

    I think plus sizes heroines are wonderful. Love comes in all sizes, shapes, colors etc. Jennifer Cruise’s book “Bet Me” the main character Min is a plus size woman, with a reed thin cranky overly critical mother, Min finds love with a stereo typical hero. Also in Jude Deveraux’s “Big Girl” she battles weight all her life to try to fit in and finally accepts she is who she is, instead of torturing herself she decides to enjoy life to the fullest.

    Joanne Fluke write a series about a baker Hannah Swenson, she is volumptous while her sisters are textbook perfect. Hannah not only is curvy but has a smart mouth and crazy uncontrollable hair.

    Women of all ages read these novels, and for a woman to see that there are realistic romance heroines is fantastic. Not every woman is model thin, afterall aren’t there plus size models? These remarkable writers show that women of all body shapes and sizes, funky hair and uncontrollable wit are worthy and deserving of love.

    (I have used the skinny chef remark for years, as I am a curvy plus size women who cooks)

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:09 pm

      One of the things I’ve tried to do with my “perfect” looking heroines is to show that they have just as many (if not more) self-image issues than those who are more along the “average” size (12-14-16)—I think there’s actually more pressure on those who are perceived as being the optimum or ideal size/shape to look their best all the time than on those who are a little larger.

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      • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:54 pm

        As a woman who is tall, willowy, fair haired, pale complexion and blue eyes, YES!!!!! We are not immune from the pressure about our looks. From the time I was 12 to about 24, people whispered behind my back that I was anorexic. A few even asked me to my face! There were people at church I avoided at all costs because they were always making remarks about how much I did or didn’t eat, when they’d never even seen me eat.

        I am not, nor have I ever been, anorexic. I can’t help it that I have a fast metabolism. I was 23 before I even came close to what I should weigh for my height. And it took two prescription medications to do that.

        And being tall and thin does not make shopping for clothes any easier. Especially jeans. If they’re long enough, then they’re too big in the waist. If they fit me at the waist, they’re too short. I buy my jeans online because I cannot find ones locally that fit right.

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  4. Jenni permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 1:16 am

    I recently looked through photos of celebs who’ve lost weight and my eyes were drawn to the skinnier pictures. That is the sad fact of life nowadays: we’ve been conditioned by the “perfect” magazine covers.

    While I was surprised (and very pleased) that your heroines weren’t Barbie dolls, I don’t think I’d be drawn to books showing “real” people on the cover. I wouldn’t care if they weren’t perfect in the story, though. Authors generally don’t concentrate on the undesirable parts (“John ran his hands over his spare tire…”) so it’s easy to be swept away without thinking about rolls of jiggling fat.

    The way around this, of course, is to not show characters on the cover at all.

    My vote is yes, plus-sized characters but the pictures could be a turn-off.

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:15 pm

      One thing I do notice, though, about people who lose a lot of weight—especially in a short amount of time, from surgery or with celebrities because of crash dieting—is that they tend to look older after the weight loss. I’ve always joked that’s one of the reasons I don’t look my age—because I have the “natural” wrinkle filler…fat! ๐Ÿ˜‰ That, and I’ve been coloring my hair since I was sixteen years old.

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  5. Monday, June 6, 2011 3:42 am

    I would buy the book and read it depending on the story. I often buy or order books because of the description. I get annoyed with books where the heroine is thin, overly fit and worried about what she’s eating.
    I read a book recently by an aussie author Paula Vince (A Design of Gold) think thats the name. The Heroine is overweight and feels bad about herself thinking shes much larger than she is and ugly partly due to taunts as a child and by others. She actually sticks up for a overweight child in a ballet class where the child she is collecting is taunting her and makes her understand how it feels . The child actually called the heroine fat and ugly. Paula used the Heroines self doubt and weight and at one stage the hero’s mother takes her shopping and has her trying on clothes she knows she cant wear as they look to small only to find they fit her and make her look really good. She also brings her to understand she isn’t ugly and not as large as she things. It was done in such a tactful way but it was a person so many could identify with. When you are overweight you often feel larger than you are and often have a wrong image of yourself.

    I love books where the heroine isn’t a size 2 or whatever the thin number is (here we start at 8) I am loving the Art of Romance as Caylor is now a size 14 which is around a 18 here. I am about her size so it feels good having a larger heroine.

    I love the look of couple 4 and could see them on a book cover. Although I think I would dress they differently.

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:21 pm

      Speaking of reading books based on the description . . . I think I’d be less likely to buy a book that mentioned the hero’s and/or heroine’s size in the blurb (meaning that it’s going to be made an issue in the book) than one that had a larger-than-perfect person on the front cover.

      Even though three of the six heroines in my contemporary novels are considered plus-size (Anne from SIG, Zarah in LR, and Caylor in TAoR—with Meredith being “average” in a size 10/12), and even though I mention their sizes in the books, it’s been more about size and self-perception, never about weight. The character I spent several hours working on this weekend (the girl in the last picture, but that’s not the guy I’ve matched her up with), weight has come up as an issue in her past. So this discussion is really helpful for me in figuring out her psyche.

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      • Monday, June 6, 2011 6:03 pm

        I think I would agree with you there. the book I was referring to you dont see the heroine has an issue till into the book. Most books dont mention weight on the back of the cover.
        I guess its like the image of models being stick figures where most of us are not. But some magazines are now using real size models in their magazines.

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        • Monday, June 6, 2011 6:11 pm

          If the couple of the front cover featured plus size people I am not sure I would expect weight to be mentioned. They may make a reference but if they are happy in themselves it shouldn’t make a difference. It could be just the same as other romance books. it doesn’t have to be on there weight. Some people seem to think if you are overweight you must be unhappy. But this isn’t true yes alot would like to lose a little but that can often come as being happy and content.
          I think often in books where the heroine is thin, fit etc they tend to go on about how little they eat or how they feel guilty for eating so much or say they will need to do x amount of exercise to counter the meal.

          I like what you have done with Caylor (still reading) but shes conscious shes lost some weight and is being careful but still eats. This is how it is when you are trying to lose weight.

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  6. Robin Weiss permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 5:03 am

    Personally, I don’t really pay much attention to the people on the cover, because they NEVER look like my imagination makes them look! LOL!!! So I guess my answer would be, it doesn’t matter what the cover models look like…just give me a great story, with a happily ever after ending & I’m all set! I LOVE your books & thank you SO MUCH for the surprise that was waiting for me in my mailbox when I got home from vacation!!!!!

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:28 pm

      Yay, I’m glad it arrived!

      As a visually oriented person, I probably pay too much attention to the cover of a book—and I prefer those that don’t feature a full-face shot of a “character.” I do, however, love historical covers that feature fabulous costumes—and have been rooked into buying more than one book which I ended up not enjoying because they had fantastic covers that I just couldn’t pass up.

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  7. Monday, June 6, 2011 6:49 am

    Yeah–the tide is turning a little. There are still plenty of take-me-away-calgon readers who like what they like, which is the pretty little twenty-year-old getting the hunky guy, and they don’t want anything else.
    But–we’re starting to see older romantic couples, and thankfully…rah, Kaye! Let’s make ’em a little more real–even if it is fiction ๐Ÿ™‚

    Lisa

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:38 pm

      In the three story ideas in one of the contemporary proposals I have out right now, the youngest heroine is thirty-nine.

      And, of course, there’s the romance between Jamie’s grandmother and Flannery’s grandfather in Turnabout’s Fair Play!

      Like

  8. Sylvia M. permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 7:33 am

    I think I would read a book with larger people on the cover. Since it is not the norm on book covers I think people would pick it up and have their interest piqued. There are LOTS of people who could identify with it.

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:39 pm

      If you saw larger people on the front of the book, though, would you expect their size to be a major issue in the book?

      Like

      • Sylvia M. permalink
        Monday, June 6, 2011 9:55 pm

        The only reason I would expect their size to be brought up is if the person is having unkind things being said about them or if they are dieting alot. I would expect them to just go about their business working, shopping, eating, etc. If they are extroverts they probably would make humorous comments about themselves. I think weight would be more of an issue in young adult and children’s fiction. Hopefully, by the time we are adults we wouldn’t dream of saying all these unkind remarks that children sometimes so thoughtlessly pass on. It probably depends on the personality of the individual and their friends/family.

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  9. Monday, June 6, 2011 8:27 am

    One of the things I’ve enjoyed about your books, Kaye, is that you don’t always have the typical Hollywood-modelesque hero. One of my pet peeves with Christian fiction is that so many protags are physically perfect. Unlike many other readers, I don’t read to escape. I want to identify with the hero/heroine.

    There’s no guarantee I’d purchase a book with plus-size heroes on the cover, BUT it would entice me to pick up the book and read the back cover copy.

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:41 pm

      To me, the perfect “Hollywood-type” is boring—and too easy, expected. And if there’s one thing I don’t like to do, it’s the expected.

      Of course, considering that, except for Dylan and Major (whose templates are both celebrity chefs), my heroes are Hollywood-types: they’re all inspired by actors! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

  10. Charmaine Gossett permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 8:53 am

    For a romance novel I think sexy, handsome and good looking perfect specimens are needed to sell. I doubt that a publisher would think otherwise. They are in the business of selling. If such a cover photo ever got on the shelves, I double that many readers would pick up the book to even read a blip.

    So, Kaye, you are off the hook. You know what sells and what readers want to dream about.

    Personally, I like to read about less than perfect people. That’s life. Think of Flannery O’Conner’s characters. The difference is her stories were not romance novels. But when I read Jane Austin, I want the hero to be handsome and rich. If I am going to dream, make it perfect.

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:45 pm

      But sexy, handsome, and good-looking are all subjective . . . which is exactly how I’m able to ply my trade. It’s through each character’s view of the other as they fall in love that makes the reader also see the characters as attractive/beautiful/handsome, just as the characters do.

      Like

  11. Monday, June 6, 2011 10:02 am

    A late-bloomer, I went to college in 2 hitches. 1987-89, then finished in 1997-99, when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. I noticed, then, how much different things were from when I was in high school in 1978-82. The reality is that both young females AND young males are larger than they were. So, basically, thin and svelte seems to be the minority, not the majority. Could this be why in ancient times, “fat” was actually considered “healthy?” Because THEN, large people were the minority, and emaciated, thin people were the majority? So that tells me that we want what we don’t have. News flash, huh?

    I get tired of feeling that I should apologize for going straight to the XL section, and that I’m not crazy about putting on a bathing suit unless there is NOBODY around that I know. I like that your characters care what they look like, but are happy, well-adjusted, and successful. That’s the reality. We may like to look at perfect specimens, but we like to read about people like ourselves.

    There’s no way I’m changing my hero in book one, though, and you know what I mean. Maybe next time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:51 pm

      I noticed the same thing, Regina, having gone to college from ’89 to ’92 and then from ’99 to ’03—not only that the girls were much bigger, but that they were dressing as if they didn’t know they were bigger (as in, they were a size 20 but wearing clothes meant for someone who was a size 10). I wasn’t sure if it was because of my own size—and trying to camouflage my own bumps and rolls—that I noticed how much tighter their clothes were, or if it was just a different sensibility because of my age and not wanting to have a “flesh belt” between the bottom of my shirt and waistband of my pants.

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  12. Monday, June 6, 2011 10:21 am

    I’d say for me, I dont’ really care one way or the other. I DO think the characters should be eye-pleasing at least in the eyes of the hero/heroine, but I don’t think size says whether someone is eye-pleasing. A little crooked nose might be cute, but missing and yellowed teeth… not so much.

    I think a few have noted it, but the thing is, a LOT of romance readers read to “escape” real life. We put ourselves in place of the heroine, and I’ll be honest, as the overweight Momma of 4 who has quite a bit of baby weight to get off… I’d rather imagine myself as a size 8 than size 18. But that said, I’ve read your books, and I had no problem with them and loved them.

    Regarding heroes… I think the same applies. A guy can be “cute” and “appealing” while still being overweight. Not sure I’d put a biggest loser applicant in there (but maybe one that has been ON a show like that would be fun… hmmm…) but I could totally fall in love with a slightly pudgy cute hero.

    We as writers also have the fun priveledge of writing the WORDS without the readers needing to “see” our characters, so we can play up on their funny and charming character without overly describing the fat the billowed in the wind as he ran down the street:-)

    Another example of a sitcom… King of Queens. Doug was quite chubby… and Carrie was skinny… but we still loved them! (or I did anyway…)

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:52 pm

      A guy can be “cute” if he’s overweight . . . but can he be considered “handsome”?

      Like

      • Sylvia M. permalink
        Monday, June 6, 2011 9:58 pm

        I have seen a few guys that were overweight that I thought their face was handsome. I didn’t particularly admire the rest of them though.

        Like

  13. Ron Edison permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 10:25 am

    I think fiction is mostly about ideals and fantasy and weight issues induce more reality than readers are comfortable with. I remember reading a mystery a few years ago in which the female protagonist (a knock-out redhead) went on about how she hated men with chest hair. Are we supposed to shave? Mickey Spillane said that writers should minimize descriptions of protagonists so that readers could accommodate themselves in the image of the hero/heroine. Exceptions to ‘normal’ appearance call attention to themselves. That’s a technique I’ve always subscribed to but it may be a tougher task for those coming from Romance where description tends to be more important to readers. On the other hand, I thought Melissa McCarthy as Sooki on Gilmore Girls was utterly charming and attractive and a refreshing change from stereotypes.

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 3:53 pm

      I think you hit on it in your comment, Ron—romance readers expect a certain level of description in the books, including not just the face but at least a general description of their entire shape/silhouette.

      Like

  14. Monday, June 6, 2011 10:41 am

    Have you ever watched Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime? If not, you should. It’s a scream! A model was killed in a car accident and wakes up inside the body of a plus-size lawyer. In one episode last season she took a Beverly Hills boutique she’d always wanted to shop in but couldn’t afford, to court because they refused to sell her a dress because she was too fat. She didn’t win because her boss owned part of it and she had to drop it, but it was still well done.

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:01 pm

      I’ve tried watching it—but the character annoys me in the way that most plus-size female characters on TV annoy me because they’re a caricature rather than a real-life person. Or they’re just there for the comic relief, the butt (or teller) of the occasional fat joke.

      Like

  15. Carol Wong permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 11:40 am

    If the story is good, I would buy it!

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:04 pm

      I’m starting to feel this way more and more, now that I’m doing more and more of my reading on my Kindle, on which I’m only looking at the title, author’s name, and the actual text of the story, not confronted with the book cover every time I pick it up to start reading.

      Like

  16. Barbara permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 11:43 am

    I like how you bring romance to PEOPLE–all sizes–in your stories. Yesterday at a restaurant we had a waitress who I felt was right out of one of your stories–The Art of Romance, actually. She was tall, perhaps would be called overweight, but carried it well with her height–but that wasn’t what struck me–it was her beautiful smile and kind, caring, helpful attitude. So…keep on writing about PEOPLE–of all types.

    Barbara

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:05 pm

      I love finding those kind of real-life people who make me feel something, even though I’ve never met them before and will probably never see them again. It’s those types who give me inspiration to do what I do!

      Like

  17. Monday, June 6, 2011 12:54 pm

    Just finished The Art of Romance. Caylor is taller than average, not particularly thin and has a chipped tooth. But you made her sound so beautiful, what with her gorgeous red hair. I hadn’t noticed the size of any of your heroes. I don’t think you mention it much at all, except Major, and even then you didn’t emphasize it so I don’t remember him that way.

    There’s room for plus-sized heroes and heroines. They have unique struggles that can make for interesting conflict. A friendly wager to lose weight, and one cheats but loses while the other sticks to the regimen and doesn’t. Health issues. Social prejudices. Personal idiosyncrasies related to weight that affect the relationship. There’s so much room for making the characters emphathetic and telling great stories.

    I don’t much care, unless the weight is pivotal to the story. Then, I just hope they don’t whine and moan, or reveal themselves to be shallow and never grow in character.

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:08 pm

      About six or seven years ago, I read a book in which the main character was not only a wedding planner, but had been overweight as a child/teen. And though she’d been slender and beautiful throughout her adult life, the author kept harping on this childhood issue with weight to the point at which I wrote, in pen, across the page GET OVER IT ALREADY (I was doing a critical reading of this book for graduate school). While it could have been just one of many childhood issues that molded the character, the author chose to harp on it so often and so heavily that I lost all sympathy with the character. And I’m really glad I read that book while I was writing Stand-In Groom, because I think that helped me to be able to write plus-size heroines without taking it to that level—at which weight/body-image becomes such an overwhelming issue as to alienate readers.

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  18. Monday, June 6, 2011 1:31 pm

    I enjoyed the fact that your heroine in The Art of Romance was a big-boned gal. As a 50+ year old woman, I STILL struggle with my appearance/weight/jean size. As long as the book does not focus on the size of the characters, but rather on the story content, what’s the difference if they are big, small, ugly, cute, etc? After all, aren’t we to see each other after Christ?

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:10 pm

      Yes, Jane, we’re supposed to . . . and I wish more people would, but the ugly truth is that we do judge people by their physical appearance. And the popular media/culture has trained most of us to see “slender” as attractive and “fat” as ugly and unattractive.

      Like

  19. Monday, June 6, 2011 1:47 pm

    Thanks for this post today, Kaye. My answer would be YES! I’d definitely buy a book with plus-size characters on the front. I mainly pay attention to the title and author, because there have been some great stories with covers that weren’t super appealing to me, but I liked the title and author. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:11 pm

      I, too, have found myself falling in love with books which didn’t have great covers—or covers on which the models on the front appealed to me. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m liking my Kindle so much. Of course, there are some books that I will take the option of the physical book not just because I love the author and know I’ll like the story—but also because the cover is fantastic!

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  20. Sylvia M. permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 2:22 pm

    This isn’t about book covers, but I still remember reading a Heartsong novella about a plus-sized lady who was convinced that the hero wouldn’t love her because of her size. One day he pulled a family photograph out of his wallet. He told her that his mother and sisters were all larger so to him that was normal and lovely. He was used to it. I’ve never forgotten that story.

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  21. Sylvia M. permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 2:23 pm

    Don’t forget too that your regular readers will buy and read your books no matter what the cover looks like.

    Like

    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:13 pm

      But with each book, an author needs to be thinking about growing her readership in addition to reaching those already loyal readers. And there are certain things that might draw the attention of new readers while turning off others. And I think featuring pictures of plus-size/husky characters on the front might do just that. It’s one of those situations in which there is no right answer.

      Like

  22. Tari permalink
    Monday, June 6, 2011 3:05 pm

    I am torn.

    First of all I don’t care for photos on books in general and try to ignore them when I read a book.

    I like the idea of a full-figured girl but in reality when I read a book with one I tend to reshape her in my mind. I do find it a bit distracting usually. It isn’t that I want a barbie figure I am ok with flaws. However, most full-figured characters are preoccupied with being heavy and wanting to be thinner and I don’t find that particular thought line interesting.

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    • Monday, June 6, 2011 4:16 pm

      It sounds to me like the books you’ve read featuring full-figured heroines feature them for the sole reason of having that be the character’s main internal conflict. I don’t know if you’ve read Stand-In Groom, Love Remains, or The Art of Romance yet, but each of the heroines in those are considered plus-sized (18, 14, 14 respectively), yet weight and body image aren’t really major concerns for these three women.

      Of course, to me, these three aren’t what I would consider truly plus-sized, simply average to full-figured.

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      • Tari permalink
        Monday, June 6, 2011 10:06 pm

        I have read those and I enjoyed them. That is what I was thinking of. In the beginning when they are described I have an accurate view of the way you described them but I found that unless the weight was a issue brought up often, they had shrunk down in my mental picture by the end without even thinking about it.

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  23. Monday, June 6, 2011 5:14 pm

    I have to be honest… My brain doesn’t seem to “translate” character descriptions very well. No matter what the author says a character looks like, my brain creates an image in my head based on how the character acts. Often, it is nothing like the author described. This is one of the reasons I love your blog posts, because it squarely puts an image in my head. I guess it’s like when you hear someone on the telephone and think you know what they look like, then get surprised when you meet them. For me, reading is that way. Maybe I’m weird?

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  24. Monday, June 6, 2011 5:26 pm

    There should be considering so many American’s, both sexes, are over weight. You’d think there is a ready made market.

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  25. Tuesday, June 7, 2011 2:44 am

    Love comes in all shapes and sizes. I’ve become of more generous proportions through the years, while my husband has remained almost exactly the same. Not even a pot belly, six pack abs even – he’s a carpenter. I know its disgusting…and delightful. People do seem to want to read about young and beautiful people though, it’s part of the fantasy – perhaps more so for secular fiction than Christian fiction. But, maybe we should think outside the box and not even give so much attention to the physiques of the characters, be a little less descriptive. And not have the characters put much emphasis on the weight issues either. I’ve read books when the heroine was mentioned as plump, but the book cover showed her as slim, so the cover artists need to get on board as well. And it’s not just about weight either, what about the slim people who are not especially attractive. Slim does not equate attractive. I would buy a book with a beautiful cover that doesn’t even have people on it. Though for historicals, I love covers showing the beautiful costumes. Rambling here…but I would love to see more realistic size models on covers and in the books. The other thing is, I spend enough time worrying about my own weight, I don’t really care for it to be a huge issue for the characters since I’m reading to escape real life….

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  26. Tuesday, June 7, 2011 8:31 am

    I think that heroes and heroines come in all shapes and sizes and often the best writers leave a lot of physical description up to the reader so that we can colour in the boxes.

    I find that there seems to be a general propensity for fiction featuring plus-sized characters to focus on those characters trying to change themselves: especially women protagonists in romance or chicklit. The book about the heroine focuses on her obsession with weight and dieting and exercise regimes and really encapsulates the struggles she undergoes as she tries to find self-acceptance. If this acceptance only comes when she is validated in the eyes of the generic romantic hero–whether handsome or plain—than that is a bit of a tricky issue.

    (this trend also happens often in fiction where the heroine does not have a seemingly noticeable weight “problem” —in SEx and the City— the gorgeous Charlotte was always obsessed with her thighs)

    I would love to see more books where plus-sized women are loud and proud and the fact that they are plus-sized is just a fact: rather than a fictional spring-board to speak to the insecurities that derive from being a plus-sized female or male in today’s society.

    I have read numerous Christian and secular novels which fall into the category above and I think a trend-breaker would take those insecurities out of it.

    Yes, people romanticize the lives of the heroines and heroes we read and at the risk of sounding harsh ( believe me, I don’t mean to be, I don’t have a perfect model body—never will and I certainly don’t think we can compartmentalize beauty to the slated standards incurred by media ), I don’t think we should romanticize any shape or size that promotes an unhealthy lifestyle.

    As much as eating disorders for women railing to be thin are an epidemic in north america, so is obesity.

    I am not saying that overweight people are not fit or healthy—doctors will tell you that health factors across the board—- but I do know that shows like the King of Queens mentioned above did promote a HANDSOME *yes, I think Kevin James is not just cute, but handsome* and overweight man indulging in a lifestyle that was committedly unhealthy and may have promoted unhealthy eating habits in viewers.

    I am all for heroes and heroines in all shapes and sizes. They should be loud and proud, secure of themselves, as easy to find and reciprocate love as any other character in the burgeoning market- — but as much as the obsession to be thin is a catastrophe in north america so is the fast and processed food craze that has spiralled us far, far away from healthy living.

    Our bodies are our temples and in Christian fiction I think we should read of characters who embrace their virtues and their flaws, strive as normal people do; but not undertake extremes—whether in the junk-food-phenomena or the latest dieting craze. We want to take care that the message we are out-putting is that God created us in our beautiful and wonderful way and that we want to honour him by doing the best we can to serve with our minds, hearts and bodies ๐Ÿ™‚

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    LONG LIVE CHARACTERS WHO LOOK AND ACT LIKE REAL PEOPLE!

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  27. Sandie Bricker permalink
    Wednesday, June 8, 2011 2:45 pm

    As the plus-sized heroine of my own life story, I think this is a really relevant and provocative post. Bigotry against the overweight and obese of the world is the last accepted bigotry in America.

    In the book I have coming out in the fall, I joyously wrote a slightly overweight heroin whom I adored. In the next book of the series, she has conquered her weight battles … and I found myself feeling a little guilty about that. So much so that I’ve included a size 26 bride in book 3 who is perfectly happy in her own skin. She’s in love with a man who looks at her and simply sees the woman he adores. I felt like I owed that to my readers, and the end result feels like a victorious statement of some kind.

    I have far more to lose than twenty or thirty pounds. Would I like to be thin and fit? Absolutely. Does it stop me from living a full, satisfying life? No way. I’m a real person with real issues and real challenges, and I want to see myself reflected in the books I read and movies I see. I can only hope that people (outside of Hollywood, of course) feel the same way.

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  28. Wednesday, June 8, 2011 3:16 pm

    An interesting question! We read fiction partly to escape our own lives, but partly to identify with the characters and find some common ground. Hmmmm. I think it’s like any good story. If the characters are alluring and real enough to engage our sympathy, we’ll cheer them on to the last page.

    But will we buy a book with an oversized character featured on the cover?? Perhaps. But there might have to be something unusual or quirky about the characters to draw us in. You’d have to see something — humor, intelligence, edginess — beyond their weight.

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  29. Wednesday, June 8, 2011 4:29 pm

    Wow! You all give a person a lot to think about. I agree that i see the person in my mind from what I read andd not the cover. However, as an overweight person I had to just take a look at what I expect in books. You are right. It is nice to read about perfect bodies. However, that being said, it would be nice to read more about women who are overweight and are happy with how they look. I am not and am extremely struggling since my health issues right now make it harder to lose weight. I am a person who does not see myself as attractive, no matter what my husband tells me.

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